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Paul In Prison
by Wayne Blank
At the end of his third missionary journey, Paul was arrested by the Roman authorities in Jerusalem after the Jews started a murderous riot because of his presence there. They accused him of being a man "who is teaching men everywhere against the people and the law and this place" (Acts 21:28 RSV). The charge of course was not true. Christianity is the fruition of the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e. the "Old" Testament - see Old Testament Fact File), not an opposition to them, and Paul, himself a Jew (Acts 21:39), certainly wasn't attacking Jews - Jesus Christ was also a Jew (John 4:9, Matthew 1:1-17, Hebrews 7:14).
Paul was sent to Rome after he exercised his legal right as a Roman citizen to appeal his case to Caesar (Acts 26:32). After an extremely dangerous voyage across The Mediterranean Sea that included a shipwreck on Malta (see Paul's Journey To Rome), Paul arrived in Rome (Acts 28:16). It was early spring, about the year 61 A.D.
Rome was then the center of a vast and powerful empire that spanned from Britain, throughout southern and central Europe, northern Africa, and deep into the Middle East, measuring about 3,000 miles / 4,900 kilometers east to west and 2,000 miles / 3,200 kilometers north to south (see Ancient Empires - Rome). The population of the city at that time has been estimated to be 1,500,000 - a very large percentage of which were slaves.
Paul remained in Rome for at least two years (Acts 28:30), where, despite being a prisoner, he wrote a very large part of what we now have as the New Testament (see New Testament Fact File) - epistles to the Ephesians (see also Ephesus), Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and possibly Hebrews. Although the Bible record does not include his fate, most scholars believe that he was eventually acquitted of the charges and released in 63 or 64 A.D., upon which he made his way back through Greece and Asia Minor (i.e. Turkey) before again being arrested and returned to Rome where he was martyred, by beheading, or torn apart by wild animals in the arena before a cheering crowd, about 67 A.D., during the time of Emperor Nero.